A Brief Explanation of Levels in USA Gymnastics

I’ve had several parents lately ask me what it means to be a level __, so this week I’m going to go through the levels (for both boys and girls) and discuss what is needed for each. But first, an overview of the system as a whole.

In the USA Gymnastics Junior Olympic program, there are set rules throughout the country for each level. For the lower levels (2-6 for girls and 4-7 for boys), there are specific routines set by USAG, so every kid in the country will be doing the same routines at these levels (though the boys program allows certain bonus skills to be performed in some of the compulsory routines for a couple extra tenths). For the upper levels (7-10 girls, 8-10 for boys), gymnasts have their own individual routines. For girls, these levels still have very specific requirements, while the boys’ upper-levels are much more open-ended.

In addition to this nation-wide system, certain states and regions have developed what’s called a Prep-Op program for girls (I am not aware of any states doing this for boys). This is a set of rules by which gymnasts may compete individual routines at the lower-levels. Generally, this varies from state to state, though Region 8 (consisting of 7 states in the southeast corner of the US, including North Carolina) has developed a region-wide prep-op system. Prep-op levels run more or less in parallel with the levels prescribed by USAG. Some gyms compete only the USAG levels, some (such as Apex) compete only prep-op, and some compete both.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s take a look at what each level means.

BOYS LEVELS:

LEVEL 4: This is the most basic level. The most challenging skills are the roundoff on floor, the pullover on high bar, and the 3 consecutive circles on mushroom. At Apex, we don’t currently have boys compete level 4, but rather we have them spend the season refining individual skills and training up towards level 5.

LEVEL 5: Challenges include front and back handsprings on floor, a kip on high bar, inlocates on rings, and back uprises on parallel bars.

LEVEL 6: Challenges include front and back tucks on floor, stocklis and flairs on mushroom, dislocates and a back uprise on rings, and a kip and a moy on parrallel bars. Gymnasts also have the option of performing giants on high bar for bonus, though they are not required.

LEVEL 7: The biggest challenges at this level are the pommel horse routine (which includes multiple consecutive circles on pommels and a travelling circle) and the high bar routine (which includes giants both ways as well as pirouettes). Some boys skip this level entirely, as it is possible in some instances to assemble a bare-bones level 8 routine which is easier than the level 7 routines.

LEVEL 8 AND UP: These levels are completely open-ended. Gymnasts can essentially perform whatever skills they want, and their maximum score is determined by the difficulty of their routines. This uses a slightly-modified version of the FIG rules used at international meets such as the olympics and the world championships.

The only thing that specifically gets more difficult as boys move up through levels 8-10 is the dismount for each event; Level 8 boys only need an A-value dismount, level 9 boys need a B, and level 10 boys need a C. (I’ll discuss skill values in next week’s column). Otherwise, the rules for each level are very nearly identical.

GIRLS USAG LEVELS:

LEVELS 1-3: These are the beginner basic levels focused on developing the basics. Many gyms don’t bother with the specific level 1-3 routines, focusing instead on individual skills.

LEVEL 4: For many gyms, this is the first level at which kids actually compete. Challenges include the front hip circle, shoot-thru, and mill circle on bars; the wende dismount on beam; and the back handspring on floor.

LEVEL 5: Challenges include the front handspring over the table on vault; the kip and squat-on on bars, the cartwheel on beam, and the front handspring and two consecutive backhandsprings on floor.

LEVEL 6: Challenges at this level include the clearhip (sometimes called a freehip) circle and the flyaway on bars, the back walkover on beam, and the back and front tucks on floor.

LEVEL 7: For this level, gymnasts have their own individual routines; however, the requirements are still very specific. Gymnasts must have back layout and a front tumbling pass which includes a salto on floor; they must have a clearhip on bars (and giants, while not technically required, are great to have); they must have a flight skill on beam (for developmental purposes a backhandspring is the most commonly preferred skill among coaches, though a roundoff, dive roll, or dive cartwheel can be used to fulfill this requirement if necessary)

LEVEL 8 AND UP: The specific skills used at these levels vary widely from gymnast to gymnast.

REGION 8 GIRLS PREP-OP LEVELS:
(note that the Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels have certain multiple-choice requirements on floor and beam, so any statement about what skills are necessary for those two events is potentially innaccurate, because there are always workarounds; in the case of floor and beam, it may be more accurate to consider these “goals” than “specific requirements”)

BRONZE: This is the most basic prep-op level. It is approximately equivalent to USAG level 3. Generally, kids will need a back hip circle on bars and either a handstand, cartwheel, or back walkover on beam. While a back handspring on floor is not explicitly required for routines, it is a very important developmental skill and for this reason we at Apex will generally put this skill into a gymnasts routine as soon as she is ready to compete it. The vault is a handstand flatback on a large mat (or stack of mats).

SILVER: Approximately level 4. The biggest challenge is probably the two consecutive backhandsprings on floor Gymnasts must have at least two tumbling passes on floor. A kip is not required on bars, though it is developmentally a very important skill, and therefore the plan at Apex is to have girls compete this skill as soon as they are ready. The vault for this level is a handspring flatback over the vault table (landing on mats stacked to around table height).

GOLD: Approximately level 5½. Challenges include a kip and squat-on on bars, a salto on floor, and a front handspring on vault. Beam has a bit more room for variation, but generally speaking, girls will use two of the following three skills: a 2-second handstand, a cartwheel, and a back walkover.

PLATINUM: Approximately level 6, with room allowed for more challenging routines. There is some level of multiple-choice in routine construction at this level, so which skills will be most challenging depends on the gymnast and on the way the routines are constructed.

For girls to move past level 5 (or past silver in Region 8’s prep-op system), they must compete at least one level 5 meet and achieve certain all-around score to qualify to move up. In order to move to level 7, gymnasts must also qualify out of level 6.

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6 Responses to A Brief Explanation of Levels in USA Gymnastics

  1. Todd McLoughlin says:

    Silver doesn’t require a 3 element pass, therefore; they don’t need 2 back handsprings.
    I’m fairly certain a clearhip isn’t required at level 7. You just need 2 B value skills. I don’t have the code here in front of me right now.
    Platinum is closer to level 7 than 6 due to the flight element requirement on beam. I will agree that many of the other requirements may be a bit watered down.
    Another main score killer at level 5 is the tap swing. One of the most important building blocks for high bar after the casts.

    • Silver explicitly requires a roundoff and two backhandsprings as one of the special requirements (Requirement #4 on floor)
      For platinum, gymnasts only have to have four of the six special requirements, so they can construct a routine without a flight acro that still has a 10.0 start value.
      Level 7 doesn’t explicitly have to have a clearhip, but it is MUCH easier to construct a routine if the gymnast has one. They need two circling elements, one of which must be from group 3, 6, or 7; so the gymnast effectively needs either a clearhip, a stalder, or a toe-on. A clearhip is the most common among these.

      Here’s a link to the current Region 8 Prep-op rules: http://www.nc-usag.org/2010/PrepRules/PrepRule_2010-2011.pdf

      Agreed about the level 5 tap swings, and I’d put the swing 1/2 turn in the same category; they’re easy to get credit for, but hard to do correctly and without deduction.

      • I stand corrected: I was working under the assumption that Silver, like bronze, had to meet every special requirement, but it appears that for floor, Silver only has to do 4 of the 6, like gold and platinum.

        So you’re correct that silver does not have to have two backhandsprings as long as they meet four of the remaining 5 special requirements.

  2. Pingback: A brief explanation of the USA’s Levels System

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  4. karie wise says:

    What qualifying score must a previous level 5 receive before being able to compete prep op platinum? Or is there a qualifying score they must receive as a gold, prior to platinum?

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